Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

Minneapolis Police Department to hold first of many community engagement sessions for feedback

Minneapolis police car
Community engagement sessions begin Tuesday evening for the Minneapolis Police Department.
Tim Evans for MPR News

The City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department will hold their first of several required community engagement sessions Tuesday evening. The goal is to get feedback from Minneapolis residents about what types of changes they want to see in the coming years.

Potential changes are coming after a report by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights ripped the MPD for what it called an illegal pattern of discrimination and abuse against Black and Indigenous residents. MPR News senior reporter Nina Moini joined Minnesota Now to discuss how people can get involved.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] CATHY WURZER: Let's talk more about policing in Minneapolis. The city and the Minneapolis Police Department will hold their first of several required community engagement sessions tonight. The goal is to get feedback from Minneapolis residents about what types of changes they want to see in the coming years. Potential changes are coming after a report by the State Department of Human Rights ripped the MPD for what it called an illegal pattern of discrimination and abuse against Black residents. Reporter Nina Moini joins us right now to talk about how folks can get involved. Hey, Nina.

NINA MOINI: Hi, Cathy.

CATHY WURZER: OK, so we know the city and the police department are under this court enforceable agreement to reform public safety. There's a state agreement we know about, right? What is the role of these meetings in that process?

NINA MOINI: Yeah, so listeners probably remember that the city and the police department are under what's called this court enforceable agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. And like you mentioned, they found these patterns and practices of racial discrimination, systemic racial discrimination. And this was after a two-year-long investigation following the murder of George Floyd.

And now, as this reform process is set to begin, it's going to take years under court supervision. That's what that court enforceable part of it means. The city is actually required as part of the court order to engage with residents about what they want to see. And Cathy, they've said all along that really centering community is something both the city and state are going to prioritize through this long process.

CATHY WURZER: Nina, are these meetings focusing on any specific parts of policing?

NINA MOINI: They are. So tonight's meeting, for example, it's from 6:00 to 8:00 at the Public Service building that's over in the first precinct in downtown Minneapolis. This one and the next couple are going to focus on use of force. So in that case, people are likely to come and share some of their own experiences tonight about how they feel they've been mistreated maybe in past encounters with police. And use of force is one area of reform the police department's now required to tackle under court supervision again.

After that, there are also going to be a few meetings in other areas like stops, searches, and arrests; then a few more on nondiscriminatory and impartial policing, some of the upcoming goals and vision and values for the department. So a broad range, Cathy. All these areas are going to be examined closely in the years to come. And we are going to put a list of those meetings and times on our website. And there will be ways for people to give feedback, too, who are unable to attend meetings in person.

CATHY WURZER: All right, that's at mprnews.org. So what about the rest of the areas of the process? Where are they at?

NINA MOINI: Well, right now, the city and state are in the process of selecting what's called an independent evaluator. And this will be the person in charge of contracting with the city to oversee the implementation of this court enforceable agreement between the state and city. So this person has to be someone who's trusted and knowledgeable, who doesn't have any conflicts of interest.

So the process in selecting that individual is going to take several weeks still, but once that person is in place, the ball can really get rolling on not only making the changes within the police department, Cathy, but also monitoring and auditing those changes to make sure they're actually happening over the next few years.

CATHY WURZER: Now, there's another court enforceable agreement expected to come from the DOJ, the Department of Justice. So how are these two efforts going to interact?

NINA MOINI: Well, we don't have all the details yet of the federal settlement agreement or consent decree, as they're calling it. But since the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the city have been expecting that it will come in the near future, they've said they're working closely with federal DOJ officials to make sure both of these sort of co-occurring efforts make sense and fit together. And so they say that the federal agreement will likely, though, take precedence over a state agreement. They're still getting the ball rolling, though, on several reforms, which are the subject, again, of these upcoming community engagement events we were talking about.

CATHY WURZER: So what's the timeline for these engagement sessions?

NINA MOINI: Well, the city says the goal really here is to hear from people before they make any final policy. So when they do set new policies, they're going to give at least 45 days to give feedback on every new policy that they set. And those will be available to the public. So the final engagement session is scheduled for September 6 in this sort of batch of sessions, just to give you a little bit of a timeline. So over the course of a month or so, they're going to have these meetings. But they're stressing, though, that's just the beginning, that there will be more opportunities for feedback in, really, what's going to be, again, a years-long reform process.

CATHY WURZER: You know, I had a little bit of a mention in the newscast there about Mayor Frey opening, just proposing his new budget. And he pretty much-- he made it really clear that reform is going to cost a lot of money. Did he talk about how much the city is going to spend overall on this?

NINA MOINI: Yeah, so in the near term, Cathy, it is going to be millions of dollars over the course of several years. That's what we've seen in other cities across the country. But he said in some of his prepared remarks today that what it's going to take initially here to comply with some of these court order changes will be $16 million in 2024, nearly 11 million in 2025 and beyond, for a combination of ongoing and also one-time efforts all going toward just the implementation of this agreement. And so, he's also planning on hiring more staff. At least 34 staff will be dedicated to this, including 28 civilian positions.

But for some perspective, Cathy, the state has given more than $20 million out to different families, whether it be the family of George Floyd over misconduct lawsuits. So really, the question the city has to weigh in a situation like this is, what's the cost of not making these reform improvements?

CATHY WURZER: Thank you, Nina. I appreciate it.

NINA MOINI: You're welcome.

CATHY WURZER: MPR News reporter Nina Moini.

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